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Nawaz to return soon, lead party in polls: Shahbaz

September 19, 2007

LONDON, Sept 18: PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif announced here on Tuesday that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif would soon return to Pakistan from Saudi Arabia and lead his party in the forthcoming general election.

He did not give any specific date for his elder brother’s return but insisted that it would be soon, “immediately after Eid or even before”.

Speaking at a press conference here, the former chief minister of Punjab would not, however, concede that by returning home after the presidential elections, Nawaz would be doing exactly what the Saudi prince and Saad Hariri had asked him to do when they met him in London before September 10.

“We could not have done that. We had made a commitment to the nation and taken a decision to return home immediately in the light of the Supreme Court ruling,” he added.

He said the government had committed contempt of court by forcibly deporting Nawaz for the second time and “the legal process which we had initiated would begin in due course of time”.

He said if the PPP had also adopted the same position as of the APDM on resigning from the assemblies if Gen Musharraf filed his nomination papers, “then it is a welcome development. I have also seen a statement to the effect by the PPP leadership”.

He said if Ms Bhutto abandoned her negotiations with Gen Musharraf she was welcome back into the fold of the opposition. “She leads a very large party. The opposition would be greatly strengthened with her return to its fold”.

He said while it was important to find out the reasons why the PML-N leadership and that of the APDM failed to mobilise the masses on September 10, no matter what the odds, what was more important today for him and all opposition parties was to stop a military dictator from getting another five-year term.

He said the APDM would stage a country-wide agitation against the military-led government on September 21.

Shahbaz said that Nawaz had met King Abdullah on Friday and on Sunday he had a sumptuous dinner with Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI.

Before the question-answer session, Mr Amjad Malik of PML-N legal wing and Zubair Gul, president of the UK PML-N, who had accompanied Nawaz Sharif back home gave eyewitness accounts of how the former prime minister was manhandled and thrown about by commandos and how the entire party, which had accompanied him, was deceived into believing that he was only being put under arrest on some cooked-up charges.

Mr Gul, who had tried to protect Nawaz from the commando action, said he had bruises all over his body. “You can imagine the state of physical torture the former prime minister must have been subjected to while he was being jostled and jumped by the commandos, but which he suffered with remarkable equanimity and also advised us to keep our cool.”

Earlier in his opening remarks, Shahbaz said the eye-witness accounts gave a lie to the government propaganda that Nawaz had gone to Saudi Arabia willingly as he did not want to choose the other option of going to prison.

Answering a question, he said the central element of the understanding between the Sharif family and the royal family of Saudi Arabia was its secrecy. “Both had vowed not make any reference to this understanding and we are still sticking to our part of the bargain.”